Equal opportunity players world news group

On Friday nights during football season in Richfield, Minn., half a dozen 16-year-old boys sporting grass-stained uniforms, still sweaty from practice, filled every chair around the Childs family dining table. They wolfed down whatever food Kristin Childs set on the table: In 40 minutes, they had to be back at school to watch the varsity football game. In those brief 40 minutes, Kristin and her husband Patrick saw an opportunity to show hospitality and Christian love to their son Eastman’s teammates.

The boys admired the family’s home, lifestyle, and sense of togetherness. Patrick and Kristin were actively involved with their four kids, reading stories from wall-to-wall bookshelves, and preparing homemade meals together. They also homeschooled: Even though Eastman played football and baseball at the local public high school, Kristin educated him at home until he graduated in 2014.


Youngest daughter Isabelle, now a homeschooled junior, plays softball at the school. Their school district supplies most gear and all athletic uniforms, even laundering them at no cost to players. Apart from the athletic fun, playing on the teams gives the Childs family a natural way to reach out to non-Christians.

But not every homeschooling family in the United States enjoys the same opportunity as the Childses. Minnesota is one of 34 states that allow homeschoolers access to extracurricular public school activities such as athletics. (Some of those states leave it up to the school district.) The other 16 states bar homeschoolers from public school sports.

Government data show that in 2016 about 1.7 million U.S. students—3 percent of all K-12 students—were homeschooled. One-third of parents surveyed said they educated their children at home out of “concern about the school environment, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure”—but many parents still want their children to play public school sports, where they can learn team skills, build friendships, and interact positively with peers.

Some state lawmakers have introduced “Tim Tebow bills,” named after the Heisman Trophy winner who grew up homeschooled in Florida. Because a 1996 Florida law allowed homeschool students to participate in public school extracurricular activities, Tebow was able to earn a spot on his local high school’s football team, where he became a standout.

Tebow bill proponents cite constitutional rights of due process, equal protection, and religious liberty. They note that homeschool families pay their share of property taxes, which support the public school system. Why should those parents, who may homeschool because of their religious beliefs, have to transfer their kids to the local public school just to get a spot on the team? (Courts have been largely unsympathetic to these arguments.)

Those opposed to allowing homeschoolers on public school sports teams argue those kids would crowd out public schoolers who must maintain more explicit eligibility requirements. The Virginia High School League actively opposed a Tebow bill in that state, with Executive Director Ken Tilley writing in a New York Times op-ed that “participation in school activities is not a right, it’s a privilege.” Tilley went on to write that homeschool students should instead participate in “recreational teams and … the growing number of home-school athletic programs that are cropping up across the country.”

Richardson, Texas, resident Erin Orton lives in a high-performing school district but educates her children at home. Her sporty 11-year-old son, Hudson, stands out on his club soccer team: During games, he runs the field with laser focus, tongue sticking out, and later remembers each play. Orton wonders how she’ll answer him if he ever asks to join a public junior-high or high-school sports team.

Stephen Howsley of the Texas Home School Coalition offers a different view. He concedes that not all taxpayers use public school resources, but believes people should have the option. He told me Texas homeschoolers save the state “somewhere in the area of $2 billion” annually but “are not able to use just one, tiny sliver of that money that’s going directly into the school district.” The Texas Legislature has many times considered and ultimately failed to pass a Tebow bill.

Under Texas’ 1984 “No Pass, No Play” law, public school students are restricted to eight hours of practice per week outside of school time and an average of 60 minutes per day within school hours. If a Tebow bill were to become law in Texas, administrators may find it difficult to adhere to that statute. Harrison wonders how school officials would “verify that the [homeschool] student is not spending four hours a day at the golf course with his golf pro.”

While homeschool athletic leagues, club teams, or even YMCA activities are an option for some families, distance or cost are barriers to others. Howsley recalls hearing from parents in rural areas who drove over an hour each way for practice and games several times a week to participate in a homeschool league. And annual dues for club sports teams in North Texas can hit $10,000 for line items like coaches’ salaries, gear, team travel, tournament fees, and practice facilities.

Ultimately, at Kruse’s prompting, Indiana lawmakers made a deal with the IHSAA: Homeschool students who enroll in one public school class, take standardized tests, and meet basic eligibility requirements may participate in public high-school sports, at the principal’s discretion. In return, Indiana schools would receive additional funding to address the added expense of more student athletes.

College admissions officers now know that homeschoolers are often high performers. In 2014, nearly 14,000 homeschooled seniors had SAT critical reading scores 14 percent higher than the average scores in reading for all college-bound seniors, 2 percent higher in math, and 10 percent higher in writing. Homeschool pioneers, though, often had to fight prejudice. Here are five of their stories:

We began homeschooling in the mid 80s. We were not necessarily pioneers in that the movement had been around and our state was fairly, but not completely, receptive to it. Not for sports though. And still isn’t. I am ambivalent on this topic. Our kids were able to participate in homeschool sports teams as well as Rec Council sports. There certainly are pros and cons. Like so many things we need to be very cautious with our relationship to the State. All that glitters is not gold.

For me I like the last part of this article "…Where are they now." We became excited about homeschooling for our oldest. But as the day approached we got "cold feet" and then enrolled him in the local kindergarten program. Then through a series of events withdrew him and decided to educate at home for one year. We continued with the one year at a time perspective for all 4 of our kids. Though admittedly the die was cast as the years went by. All 4 did well. All 4 graduated college near the top of their class, A jet pilot, geotechnical engineer, interior designer and 4.0 English major testifies to the educational benefits of home education. I think the lowest college GPA of any of our graudates was 3.8. But even more, the value of family bonding, character development, and life stories are as, if not more, important.